The Establishing Shot: SCI-FI-LONDON 9 - Day 1: The Opening Reception

Friday, April 30, 2010 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

SCI-FI-LONDON 9This post is late and delaying me! It should have been up yesterday but because of the sheer awesomeness of SC-FI-LONDON 9's opening evening at the Apollo Piccadilly it has taken me a little while to recover as well as to make my way through the immense volume of photos & video taken on the night. The upside to this is that I have been able to select, edit and give the media from the evening the respect it deserves for what turned out to be a once in a lifetime event.

The downside is that I could not attend Day Two of SCI-FI-LONDON 9 and Day 3 is looking a little shaky as I write this a couple of hours before 8th Wonderland is screened to kick off SCI-FI-LONDON 9 Day 3.

Rather than as single long winded post I have split the events from the Opening Evening of SCI-FI-LONDON 9 into 3 bite size posts; The Opening Reception, The Arthur C Clarke Award Ceremony and finally my take on the first London screening of Vincenzo Natali's Splice.

If you are not a regular reader of my blog or do not know what SCI-FI-LONDON is - here is a quick primer from Wiki:
SCI-FI-LONDON was originally designed to be a festival that “takes a serious look at sci-fi and fantasy, bringing new, classic and rare movies from around the world to the UK”, SCI-FI-LONDON (SFL) screens world and UK Premieres, seminal cult classics, as well as documentaries, debates and talk.
SCI-FI-LONDON once the underground & secret domain of Sci-Fi fans is now the premiere calendar event for Science Fiction and fantastic film in the UK. Now in its 9th year and showing only signs of getting bigger and better year on year. This year's Opening Night was Gala by anyone's standards and I was lucky enough to be amongst the few that attended. The itinerary for the evening was:

6:30PM - Informal Drinks Reception
7:45PM - Arthur C Clarke Awards 2010
8:45PM - First official UK screening of Vincenzo Natali and Guillermo del Toro's Splice

I arrived a little early as I was hoping to soak up the atmosphere and take some pics before the Apollo Piccadilly got to full and typical film festival frenzy kicked in.

If you have ever been to a film festival you know what I’m talking about, if you haven't it’s something akin to controlled chaos!

The SCI-FI-LONDON team had done an admirable job of turning the Apollo into a Star Craft 2 zone. Blizzard one of the sponsors was launching Star Craft II and had supplied some great memorabilia and promo material including some Beta Keys for Star Craft 2 & a Star Craft playing zone. Sweet stuff! I’m not familiar with PC based Star Craft franchise as I dabble exclusively in Console gaming. But there was a real buzz about how good it was and the long 9 year wait for a sequel and the trailer screened a little later did wet my appetite

At this point the UK Garrison of Vader’s Fist the 501st Legion arrived and proceeded to invade SCI-FI-LONDON 9 accosting local Londonians causing a stir last experienced on Alderaan.

A staple at most SCI-FI-LONDON events the 501st Legion or Vader’s Fist are an all-volunteer organisation formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. Or rather they are an elite unit of clone troopers, and later stormtroopers, that came to symbolize the might of the Galactic Empire, the 501st Legion were the soldiers under the command of Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith. Also known as "Vader's Fist," they continued to enforce order and Imperial rule well after the death of Vader.- From the official Star Wars Databank

To recognize the dedication and contributions of the 501st Legion, Lucasfilm has immortalized them by incorporating the name "501st Legion" into many official materials (books, games and toys).

Fortunately guests arriving for the Opening reception were spared. Surprisingly quickly the Apollo Piccadilly filled up and there was a real buzz in the air, not only was it the start of the SCI-FI-LONDON 9 Film Festival, the Arthur C Clarke Award winners announcement was moments away and the room was full with British Literati and notable guests from the Sci-Fi and Fantastic film world - showing their support for what has become the premiere event for Sci-Fi and Fantastic film in the UK.

Guests that I spotted and had the chance to chat with included; Directing Legends Joe Dante (about to release The Hole 3D and Thirst a vampire flick, not be confused with Chan-wook Park’s Thirst of the same name) and John Landis (currently finishing up post on Burke and Hare).

The son of a former Time Lord and Sci-Fi & Fantastic film legend in his own right Sean Pertwee (serendipitous, as SFL are hosting a special free screening of Invasion Earth 2150 AD on Sunday), fellow British Actor Craig Conway (currently Pertwee and Conway are in 4 upcoming features; Stand Well Back, The 4th Reich, Four and Devil's Playground).

Author China Miéville (nominated for a third Arthur C Clarke Award). Visual FX Legends Bill Pearson & Steve Begg and upcoming Director Mark Buchanan (check out his brilliant short The Search showing at SFL9 as well as online. I’ll also be interviewing Mark for theestablishingshot shortly).

I didn’t get a chance to chat or meet with Director/Writer Stuart Hazeldine (Exam currently out and in pre-production on Paradise Lost and Battle Chasers) or The Lone Gun Men Dean Haglund (who’s performing his stand up routine: Geek Night Out at SFL9 this evening) as well as many others that I did not recognise or I was too slow to spot.

I did notice that this year there was no DJ at the reception as with previous years and at the Life in 2050 exhibit opening earlier in the week. But the buzz seemed to get louder as guests chatted, propped the bar up and sampled the delicious floating canapés.

As is customary Festival Founder and Director Louis Savy was sporting his huge smile as he teleported between greeting guests and ensuring the smooth running of Opening night by the SCI-FI-LONDON team. Hats off to the SCI-FI-LONDON Volunteers as they did a brilliant and seamless job, with every thing running seemingly smoothly apart from a couple of expected and entertaining late starts. Louis is king of "the stall" and they usually end with the audience receiving a handful of goodies.

It’s worth noting that although there were notable guest at the opening Louis’s very down to earth stance is that SCI-FI-LONDON is about showing good films that happen to be Science Fiction and was recently quoted in the New York Times as saying “We have a few stormtroopers on hand to run security, but we are not a ‘Con’ or fan event in that way. We are a film festival first.”

What an absolutely epic Opening party and great start to SCI-FI-LONDON 9. Over and above and above any expectations I had. If the rest of the festival is half as good as the opening night this is going to be a difficult year to top.

SCI-FI-LONDON 9 - Day 1: The Opening Reception

Apollo Piccadilly Circus
19 Regent Street, London, SW1Y 4LR

Weds 28 April - Mon 3 May, 2010

More info at SCI-FI-LONDON or get tickets at 0871 220 6000 or directly through the Apollo Cinemas Website